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Acts of Kindness

Acts of Kindness Reduce Social Anxiety and Increase Happiness

posted 12:14 PM EST, Mon January 06, 2014

Researchers say that not only do random acts of kindness make us feel happier; they can also reduce the severity of social anxiety disorder symptoms.

Researchers at UBC say simple acts of kindness produce big happiness rewards and seem to alleviate some of the distress associated with conditions like social anxiety disorder.

The Study

A pool of socially anxious study subjects were split into three groups

  1. Researchers instructed subjects from the first group to engage in multiple small acts of kindness, like buying someone a small gift or cup of coffee or offering a co-worker a ride, two days per week for four weeks
  2. Subjects in the second group received belief challenging (CBT) instruction and exercises, two days per week, for four weeks
  3. A third group received no therapy or instructions to engage in random acts of kindness

The Results

Subjects in the acts of kindness group experienced increased levels of positive mood that lasted over the entire four weeks of the study period. Subjects in the other two groups experienced no equivalent increase in positive mood.

Only subjects in the acts of kindness group also reported decreased social avoidance and increased relationship satisfaction

Read the full study results in the journal Emotion 

Why Do Acts of Kindness Improve Mental Health?

According to the Mental Health Foundation, some reasons why acts of kindness increase mental health include:

  • They distract us from our own problems and help us keep a sense of perspective
  • They help us feel grateful for what we have
  • They get us more socially engaged and involved
  • They improve our self esteem and feelings of competence
  • Memories of your act of kindness produce feelings of happiness that last for long after the act is completed
  • Positive acts reduce stress and negativity (such as anger and frustration)
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Story Highlights
  • Increased Happiness: Just two days a week spent engaging in acts of kindness increased happiness all week long
  • Decreased Social Anxiety: As an added bonus, acts of kindness also decreased social anxiety and increased relationship satisfaction
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